Let us help others find Christmas Peace, says Bishop Holohan

10 Dec 2020

By Contributor

By Bishop Gerard Holohan, Diocese of Bunbury

Bunbury Bishop Gerard Holohan Photo: Ron Tan.
In his 2020 Christmas Message, Bunbury Bishop Gerard Holohan writes that as his followers, the first call of Christian love is to share the peace Christ gives with others. Photo: Ron Tan.

Sadly, the Christmas peace the angels sang of when Jesus was born is hard to see in Australian society today.  So many seem troubled, angry, alienated and confused in their lives.

The COVID-19 regulations led to renewed relationships for many, while others broke down completely.  The mental well-being of many has been affected – we can all think of other examples from families and others close to us, or at least in the media.

Many have turned to social media, which never leaves people generally feeling more positive.  And communication through computers can leave a greater sense of isolation which can be relieved only by personal presence.

For many, the loss of a sense of control of their lives has affected them profoundly.  Fear of contracting the coronavirus, isolation, the threat to businesses and the loss of employment have all contributed to this.  Many too have found themselves asking questions related to the meaning and purposes of their lives.

The lament of Jesus

Jesus lamented the lost opportunity of Jerusalem because so many of its people rejected him, the ‘way to peace’ [Luke 19:41].  Today, he is lamenting the sufferings of many Australians because they are not following his ‘way to peace’, the peace the angels sang of.

They are not relating with him in the ways he taught, and even imaging religion is irrelevant and has nothing to offer their lives.  After all, the peace of Christ is his gift to those who follow him – ‘my own peace I give you’ [John 14:27].

Sharing the peace of Christ

As his followers, the first call of Christian love is to share the peace Christ gives with others. To give a genuinely listening ear to the troubled; to encourage the discouraged; to be a patient presence to those experiencing financial and employment reversals.  We need to visit the lonely, be supportive of those struggling with family problems and show empathy to families of drug addicts.

We need to offer practical support to young people and anyone else who is struggling with claims for government financial support.  It is Christ within us, the ultimate giver of Christmas peace, who touches the hearts of those we love in these ways, through the Holy Spirit.

Looking for opportunities

Christmas is a time too to look for opportunities to help troubled family members, friends and others in our lives see that there is a path for them to find inner peace.  We need to encourage them to enter daily into personal ‘conversation with Christ’ about their issues – what St Paul VI called ‘the dialogue of salvation’.  This is the most basic Christian devotion and path to knowing him increasingly, the path the Apostles and Christians ever since have known and practised.

Ideally, we can encourage them too to bring their issues, stresses and struggles to the Eucharist.  This is the most powerful of all prayers for, in the Eucharist, Jesus makes our prayers to the Father his own.

The power Christ offers

We need to help them to appreciate that Christ’s power brings good out of any eveil; that he seeks to empower us to live those teachings which we find more difficult.  Jesus taught Christianity, therefore, as an empowering faith, not just a set of values and life principles.

Through the Spirit, he offers us guidance in times of confusion and doubt, and answers to troubling questions about our lives and relationships.  He offers consolation when we are sad, healing when we are hurt and inner renewal and encouragement when all seems lost.

Through the Holy Spirit, increasingly we can grow to see ourselves, others and our lives through God’s eyes as we nurture the Spirit of Wisdom by praying for help to see and by nourishing this gift of the Spirit with the Eucharist. 

Inner strengthening in the face of pressures and reversals grows as we nurture in the same ways the Spirit of Fortitude. 

We find decisions guided as we nurture the Spirit of Counsel.  We find ourselves increasingly overwhelmed by a growing sense of being loved personally by God as we nurture the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord.

Lament stirred by the Spirit

When we lament the sufferings of others who have drifted from the practice of the faith, we are experiencing the Holy Spirit stirring within us the feeling of Christ over Jerusalem because it failed to accept his ‘ways to peace’. 

Let us pray for those in our lives who lack Christmas peace.  Believers too can forget to bring their lives and life issues to Christ and neglect the prayer of ‘conversation with Christ’.

Let us pray too to recognise opportunities to share with them the ‘way to peace’ Christ makes possible.

May each of you and your families experience an increase in Christmas peace and joy.

Bunbury Bishop Gerard Holohan with youth at the 2019 Australian Catholic Youth Festival. Photo: Iceberg Media/Archdiocese of Perth.